Civil rights are about all people having the right to fair and equal treatment.
Civil rights laws are designed to apply to everybody in society and to prevent discrimination based on characteristics like:
- National origin
- Marital status.
For example, if you run your own business, you need to take care that you do not refuse employment to anyone because of one of these issues.
Other Civil Rights
In most western, democratic societies, you will also find the following issues are protected civil rights:
- Freedom of religion
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of the press
- Freedom of assembly
- Freedom of protest
- Right against unreasonable search and seizure
- Right to due process
- Right to an attorney
- Right to equal protection under the law.
You might consider using a civil rights lawyer if any of the above issues apply to you.
Civil rights law is developing
Society’s understanding of civil rights continues to grow and change. In recent times we have experienced greater acceptance in society for lesbian, transgender, gay and queer communities and seen the growth of the “Me Too” movement. These kinds of issues can sometimes lead to new laws to ensure greater protections for people and to eliminate discrimination.
Laws around civil rights can be complex and controversial.
Should men transitioning to females be allowed to compete as women in sporting events? A mother may not be comfortable taking her daughter into a changing room alongside a transgender female.
Attempts to clarify these issues and others can lead to new laws.
What is a Civil Rights Violation?
Some rights are only enforceable against the government or some other organization with law-making abilities.
If you wish to speak about something in your workplace, church or another private setting and another individual prevents you from doing so, that is not a violation of your civil rights, but if you wish to speak in a public domain like your local city council and you are prevented, then that is a violation of your right to free speech.
Other rights can be enforced against individuals.
Anti-discrimination laws are designed to provide protection from the likes of employers, landlords, store owners, and other individuals. These issues reach the level of a violation if the conduct treats people differently and denies them benefits – or causes additional detriments, due to the form of discrimination.
Examples of Civil Rights Violations
The following are all examples of civil rights violations:
- Sex and gender discrimination in education or employment – for example it is usually illegal to advertise a job for men only, unless there are some specific reasons why only men would be able to do that job
- Housing discrimination based on race, religion, or national origin – a landlord can’t refuse to rent accommodation to someone because of their race, although it can often be difficult to prove the real reason
- Workplace sexual harassment – this can range from inappropriate comments through to issues like pressuring an employee for sexual favors in return for a promotion or pay rise
- Denial of notice or an opportunity to be heard before having property taken away – if you are being kicked out of your rental accommodation for some reason you have the right to give your side of the story before losing your property.
Members of minority groups are among those most at risk of discrimination because those outside the group do not understand them.